“Clockwork Angels”, the anxiously-awaited new album by legendary band RUSH, is their first release of original material in over five years.
Fortunately, the three men (bassist-vocalist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart) who power their way through this sprawling, open-hearted and wildly alive CD, know that the best way to avoid creative stasis is to simply be themselves, and in doing so they're growing in sophistication and revealing new depths of feeling at an astonishing rate on this new effort, the band's 20th studio album.
The recording of “Clockwork Angels” began in April 2010 with Grammy Award winning producer Nick Raskulinecz, and the full band co-producing as well.
This album marks a return for Rush into the realms of the concept album, with Neil Peart's science fiction inspired lyrics describing a 'future as seen from the past', a kind of sci-fi concept.
Musically, there are certainly moments of retro Rush hard riffing throughout the disc, countered by some orchestrated acoustic sections.
"Caravan" opens with an ominous descending synthesizer sequence then explodes into a catchy riff that will immediately get your head bobbing. A track with an upbeat chorus and several contrasting instrumental sections.
"BU2B" is heavier yet accessible. The lyrics expose Neil Peart's diatribe against religion - Christianity seems singled out in particular. The song is unrelenting: thumping beat, buzzing guitar and Geddy's wailing with the only respite from the heavy grind in the bridge.
Next, on title track "Clockwork Angels", Lee's voice sounds smooth and unaffected as never before. When the band is hard charging into the track, Peart pounds on his toms with an almost beastly force. By the 4:30 mark, the spotlight hits Lifeson, performing a solo that plays like an aria.
"The Anarchist" starts with a sprightly, snaggle-toothed guitar riff leading to a boisterous rocker in which Lee, Lifeson and Peart tumble over one another with staggering agility.
"Carnies" features probably the meanest riff that Alex Lifeson has ever played - on record at least - one which dovetails seamlessly into a brutal mass of a verse. A sweet yet rude song in how everything fits effortlessly right.
Over a gorgeous, double-tracked acoustic guitar figure, on "Halo Effect" Geddy Lee sings richly, even-tempered and marvelously expressive. The track surges into a section of stomping power trio goodness, but the overall framework is acoustic, soon laced with elegant strings.
"Seven Cities Of Gold" contains nods to Rush's past, but the whole thing feels incredibly alive and vital, in a dazzling assortment of riffs that dodge and weave, rise and fall, with a psychedelic middle section.
"The Wreckers" is the kind of melodic song that engages you on so many levels - you like it because it sounds great, because it's being played by Rush and you're thrilled that they can push all the right buttons, but mostly because it renews your faith in the idea that rock music still has crazy and beautiful places to go.
"Headlong Flight" is a great 'new-classic' Rush song, a return to their '70s roots with a contemporary feel. It is a headlong journey into an amazing 7 minutes and 21 seconds of pure, unadulterated Rush bliss, with Geddy Lee punishing that bass right before the guitar solo comes flying in with the wah pedal like the good old days and Neil is just tearing up his drum kit all the way through.
After the short "BU2B2" built on cellos and acoustic guitars, "Wish Them Well" rocks in the classic Rush style, featuring a shimmering quality guitar job and Hammond organ over Peart's ramrod drums.
The album ends with the delightful "The Garden". Graceful and buoyant acoustics, tasteful orchestration, and Lee singing in a simple, bereft style make up the bedrock of this track. After a spellbindingly romantic piano interlude, Lifeson reaches in and pulls out a multi-dimensional guitar solo.
What's most amazing about the general state of Rush in 2012 – and this is played out vividly throughout "Clockwork Angels" – is how comfortable they are in their own skin.
Their songs, epic in scope, abstract yet achingly personal, rendered here with a commanding sonic radiance, are born out of instinct and impulses, unique as a fingerprint and every bit as fascinating.
"Clockwork Angels" is a very good modern Rush album, easily holding up against, or even bettering, the likes of 'Vapor Trails' and 'Snakes And Arrows'.
01 - Caravan
02 - BU2B
03 - Clockwork Angels
04 - The Anarchist
05 - Carnies
06 - Halo Effect
07 - Seven Cities Of Gold
08 - The Wreckers
09 - Headlong Flight
10 - BU2B2
11 - Wish Them Well
12 - The Garden
13 - BU2B (Radio Mix) [bonus]
14 - Headlong Flight (Radio Edit Version) [bonus]
Geddy Lee – bass, keyboards, bass pedals, vocals
Alex Lifeson – guitars, keyboards
Neil Peart – drums, lyrics
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